Local climbers look west to Everest By Don Anderson Climbing to the top of the world is a once in a lifetime opportunity. For local climber Jayson Faulkner it is THE opportunity. Risking it all — including expenses of up to $200,000 — Faulkner and fellow Whistlerites Reto Marti and Rob Driscoll, along with three other accomplished climbers, will embark on a gruelling eight-weeks sojourn up the face of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak. It will mark the first-ever Everest ascent by a group of West Coast climbers. More importantly, it will be the first time in history that a group of climbers will relay real-time photographic images and information directly from the peak, 8,848 metres above sea level. Faulkner cringes when asked why he would attempt such a feat. He’s 37, married and father of three young children, and about to face perhaps the most difficult adventure he will ever encounter. So, what’s the deal? "It’s daunting as hell, every single day it’s on your mind," says Faulkner. "But just to be in that environment that you’ve read about, heard about and know about is just a great opportunity." The pilgrimage will begin Aug. 1 and cost roughly $150,000 for the six-member team, on top of the $50,000 U.S. permit charged by the Nepalese government for climbing the world’s tallest chunk of rock. Faulkner initially turned down the opportunity to ascend Everest when it was offered to him last by 46-year-old George Tumpack, who is on a quest to scale the highest peaks of the world’s seven continents, without the aid of oxygen, in a record setting pace of 24 months. If Tumpack is able to complete the ascent of Everest, it will be the first ever oxygen-free climb by a Canadian. Faulkner, who has been climbing since 1981, only accepted the challenge when Tumpack offered him the chance to assemble the team. But unlike Tumpack, he and the remaining members of the team will climb with the aid of oxygen. Most people, says Faulkner, don’t understand how difficult an ascent of the mountain is without oxygen, and he’s not about to learn firsthand. "Some of the world’s best mountaineers haven’t been able to do it," he says. "If you try to do it without oxygen your chances of frostbite go up substantially and your chances of success go down substantially." Oxygen or no oxygen, Faulkner admits it’s not like Everest has never been conquered in the past. In fact, it is a heavily climbed stretch of terrain. More than 450 ascents of the mountain have been recorded, and a record 37 climbers reached the peak last Tuesday. The difference with this climb, he says, is that it will take the average climber and non-climber directly onto the mountain via the Internet and live satellite broadcast communication. Live voice and video link-ups from the mountain are being planned with the CBC and other media outlets. Barring equipment failure, the team will be able to communicate with just about anyone they want to during its time on Everest. "For the past couple of years expeditions have had the ability to have a fax machine at base camp and be able to communicate by phone from the camp," says Faulkner. "But never has the technology been there to take it up on the mountain." The growth of Internet has, in fact, reduced the scope of the world’s terrain. At present there are numerous sites on the Worldwide Web from which surfers can access up-to-the-minute details on ongoing expeditions, including weather patterns encountered, the type of food eaten and climbers’ thoughts. "It definitely marks a passing," says Faulkner. "This is a sad note in my opinion because technology has reached the level where there is no place on the face of the earth which is out of reach. "I guess there is something to be mourned about that kind of loss. It is a loss of remoteness." Fund-raising initiatives for the team’s ascent have begun. Events are being planned to promote the trip, which will be the first ever by Whistler climbers. In the past, Everest ascents have been undertaken by teams from Canmore, Alta. This latest Canadian ascent, says Faulkner, will represent a "coming of age" for West Coast climbers who has long been overshadowed by rival climbers east of the Canadian Rockies. "I just think it will be a huge adventure with a group of really good friends and a really amazing road trip," he says.